Anna Magdalena Frederica Ulrica

The Princess in the Penitentiary

This is the "true" story about the supposed daughter of King Christian VI, who spent the last days of her life in the penitentiary of Stege on Møn.

This is how it all started: In the summer of 1761 Anna Sophie Magdalena Frederica Ulrica and her 'butler', a Norwegian student, Henrik Kirchhof, came to Copenhagen. Anna was then about 25 years old.

Almost immediately they began their task to get her royal inheritance confirmed by the royal court. She claimed that she was the proof of an intimate relationship between the King and the Queen’s sister, the widow Sophie Caroline.

In the beginning nobody took notice of her story but then in May 1767 she sent a petition to the Royal Court where it was stated that she was the King's daughter and rumours began to circulate. A commission was gathered in 1769 whose task was to investigate her story.

This is what they found out: Anna said that she was the offspring of King Christian VI and his wife’s sister the widow Sophie Caroline. It was commonly known that the King had a close relationship to his wife’s sister, but as he was in bad health nobody suspected that they had something else than a close friendship, but the Queen was nevertheless very jealous as he spent much of his time with her. Anna had probably heard about these rumours and based her story on them.

She also said that she was raised in a forester’s house near Fredensborg and that the King had visited her many times there. She had also lived together with the Countess Schack and she had then been kidnapped by some unknown men to Norway. She couldn’t remember any details about her childhood or the kidnapping or the kidnappers.

After some years in Norway she travelled on to Holland where she met Henrik Kirchhof, a Norwegian student, to whom she had shown some valuable pictures of the King and Sophie Caroline, which she claimed that she had had since her childhood but no details were given. Henrik had been persuaded by her story and the evidence and offered her to help her claiming her rights. They had travelled back to Copenhagen in 1761 and started to spread the rumours that she was the King´s daughter but no one really believed them, until they send the petition in 1767. She also claimed that in 1763 she had visited her then elderly mother and she had supposably recognised her at once and written a letter which confirmed that she was her daughter. Anna never showed Henrik this document if it ever existed. Some years later when the King, the woman who took care of her in the forester’s house and the Countess had died, they decided that the time was up!

The commission however found out that her story was very untrustworthy. First of all, the children of the woman in the forester's house didn’t remember ever seeing Anna, neither had the servants of the Countess Schack seen Anna. Anna however had been in Norway, but she had not been kidnapped, she had gone to Norway by her own free will and there she had travelled around without paying for her stay. When it got a little bit heated around her because of her unpaid bills she got the opportunity to flee to Holland by ship. In Holland she earned her living by being a prostitute and she supposably met Henrik that way. He fell in love with her and believed her story. Though when she had to present the pictures and the document to the commission, they had been stolen, or that was what she said at least. She claimed that the landlord had taken them from her room, but he swore that he had not seen any of them.

As the evidence was gone and her story very untrustworthy, the verdict for Anna’s claim was that she should work for life in a faraway penitentiary, that would be Stege! Henrik for that matter was sentenced to 8 months in prison, it was what he already had served during the trial, and was set free. Anna arrived to Stege's penitentiary in June 1770; she was then 34 years old.

Nevertheless the commission had some doubt and the story was kept secret, she was punished very mildly and she was given a small fee from the Royal Court. In the penitentiary she worked her way up and got a good position and finally got 2 small rooms and some freedom. She lent the other prisoners money for a sky-high interest and for her fee from the Royal Court she kept court in Stege. She also visited many important people in Stege. All the time she held up her claim and many people believed her.

Then in 1803 after 33.5 years in the penitentiary she was released and her fee raised. She only lived 1 year and 2 months in freedom before she died and with her she took the truth about her royal blood into her grave.

Source: An article in the Danish magazine "Søndag".
Additional editing by Joachim Henkel.
Corrections made: 12/9-2003